On Friday, mayoral candidate and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) released the last of his five-part “Action Plan SA,” a set of policy proposals issued each day this week.
Some political observers said the series of news releases – one each morning – was an intelligent strategy to keep Brockhouse in the news cycle and keep Mayor Ron Nirenberg on the defensive – though there has been less media coverage of Brockhouse’s plans as the week has gone on. The proposals address property taxes, climate change, the workings of city government, transportation, and public safety.
“Campaigns are a competition of narratives and whose narrative breaks through. … [Brockhouse is ] driving the bus right now,” said local political consultant Laura Barberena. “Causing the mayor to be reactive rather than proactive also put the mayor into a really defensive mode.”
For his part, Nirenberg said Brockhouse has no vision and his proposals demonstrate a lack of understanding of how to build one.
“[Brockhouse] has no record of accomplishment and so now he’s plucking things off of the tree that we’ve already planted and suggesting that they are new ideas,” Nirenberg told the Rivard Report. “They’re not. And if you look below the hood, some of that stuff is just rhetoric.”
Brockhouse’s policy proposals include a mix of long- and short-term actions of varying scope and impact that he says he would launch, or at least start work on, within the first 90 days of his term if elected in the June 8 runoff.
“If you put [the action plan] out all at one time, I think you can get buried in the importance of each issue,” Brockhouse said Thursday.
Though many items on Brockhouse’s policy punch list are not costly, such as better crosswalks around schools, they add up quickly and will require finessing the city budget, Brockhouse acknowledges. But, he said, “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a priorities problem.”
Part of funding the items in his action plan would mean cutting from what he calls “pet projects” and governmental overreach. On top of that, he said he would move to reduce the property tax burden, which would reduce the City’s revenue.
“Some of these things [in my plan] are, like, ‘Why wouldn’t he have already done this?” Brockhouse said. “One of the biggest knocks on Ron Nirenberg is that he keeps planning – there’s no action.”
Nirenberg has a vision document, compiled for his successful 2017 race against Mayor Ivy Taylor, that includes his platform with broad goals and strategies. He said that while his opponent is sending out news releases, he is, well, being the mayor.
“The work that we’re doing in the city to strengthen our economy, improve public safety, deliver transportation [options] — that’s the vision that I ran on in 2017 … which I spent lots of time in the community working [on] and then published full-on strategic documents about,” Nirenberg told the Rivard Report.
Brockhouse’s latest “action plan” press release addressed one of his signatures issues, public safety, with proposals to increase hiring of police officers and fund a “comprehensive intimate partner violence prevention strategy,” among other initiatives. However, Brockhouse himself came under fire in March after police reports from 2006 and 2009 surfaced detailing Brockhouse’s alleged involvement in domestic abuse.
He was never arrested or charged in either incident, the earlier of which involved a then-estranged wife, and the 2009 police report, in which Brockhouse’s current wife reportedly called police, no longer exists in City records.
“He’s able to sidestep that because there is no smoking gun,” Barberena said. She added that Brockhouse has essentially turned the 2006 report into a “she said, he said” incident with an ex-wife. “And his [current] wife continues to stand by him.”
Brockhouse’s background in marketing has proven to be a strength, Barberena said. Before he was elected to the District 6 office, he worked as a marketing and political consultant for the police and fire unions, which are backing him for mayor.
To counter the attention given to Brockhouse’s proposals, Nirenberg needs to get his message to rise above his opponent’s, she said. “There’s a lot of ways that it can be done and those things take money, so I suspect that he’s heavily in a fundraising mode right now.”
Kelton Morgan, Nirenberg’s campaign manager, said voters can expect to see a lot of Nirenberg over the airwaves and online in the coming days. Early voting in the election begins May 28.
Political consultant Colin Strother, who works for the police and firefighters unions, said he was surprised that Nirenberg didn’t fire back this week with an announcement or initiative of his own – separate from responding to Brockhouse’s plans.
While City Council approved funding Thursday to provide services for a growing influx of migrants, Nirenberg can’t take the full credit for working with City Manager Erik Walsh on the issue. The vote was unanimous, so Brockhouse supported the measure, too.
Strother, who worked on Taylor’s runoff campaign, said there is a striking similarity between this election and the 2017 runoff in which Nirenberg ousted Taylor: a failure to stress the successes of their first term in the runoff.
“The mistake I made on Ivy’s runoff … is there was a reluctance to tell the story again,” he said.